JUST A LITTLE WHILE LONGER
John 16:16-20 A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of His disciples among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that He saith, A little while? We cannot tell what He saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask Him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
A "while," used in the lesson text as a noun, is a length of time, a space of time, or a certain duration of time. It is preceded by the words "a little," which modifies it to mean a short length, space, or duration of time. Just how long is a "while?" As a child I remember when I was allowed to go outside and play for a "while," it seemed an extremely short time before I was called back into the house, yet when, as punishment, I was required to sit in the corner for a "while," it seemed to be an eternity.
When Jesus told His apostles that in a little while, and ye shall not see Me, He meant only one day. He was taken from their presence by soldiers, and, on the following day, He was crucified and entombed - being completely removed from their sight. But Jesus adds this prophetic message of assurance: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me. The term "a little while" used here is the length of time Jesus was entombed, which was three days, after which He reappeared to them, to others, and even to well as over five hundred other disciples. Continuing this thought of Jesus' absence from them, He added this reason, because I go to the Father. Although Jesus did not precede this event with the phrase, in "a little while," He could have very well done so. Notice what is recorded in Acts 1:3. After His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. I suppose in many references of time, such as this, "a little while" could very well mean forty days. (Although it is not mentioned here, Jesus could also have told them that, in a spiritual sense, He would see them once again at His second coming on the Day of Judgment).
Then said some of His disciples among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me: and, Because I go to the Father? There are times when it is difficult, for those of us living today, to fully understand the inability of Jesus' apostles to understand His teaching. On three other occasions, Jesus had told them this same message. Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto Him that sent Me (John 7:33). Again, speaking to His apostles, He said, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek Me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you (John 13:33). And finally He told them, Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also (John 14:19). In verse 18, His apostles still lacked knowledge; they failed to understand the spiritual meaning and reason for the impending death of Jesus, which was to take place in a little while.
The all-wise, understanding Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, knew the frustrating anguish His apostles were facing during these final hours of His life on earth. Consoling them only as their Master could do, He said to them, ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice. Certainly this came true. At His cruel death on the cross of Calvary, a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented Him (Luke 23:27). However, those, referred to here as the world - His enemies that sought His death, were triumphantly joyful. Their sorrow would only last for a little while, and soon your sorrow shall be turned into joy. What joy there was among the apostles when they heard these words about their Lord and Savior, "He is risen" (See Luke 24:1-9). For a little while the apostles were filled with sorrow. Their Master had left them. But after waiting just a little while longer, joy once again filled their hearts. Jesus had conquered death, was risen, and soon would be reunited with them in Galilee. Here on earth, Christians also must wait just a little while longer before being reunited with our Savior, Christ Jesus.